Govt will try to bring down food losses – Badal

Union Food Processing Industries Minister Smt. Harsimrat Kaur Badal said her ministry will try to bring down losses in the agricultural commodities, particularly in fruits and vegetables, from the present 18% to much lower levels.

Addressing the meeting organised by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MOFPI) in association with the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) with Ministers of Food Processing Industries of States/ UTs, the Minister said that impetus on food processing can result to self-reliance in food production and maximisation of yield.

Quoting the study made in the year 2009, Smt. Badal said that the wastage of fruits and vegetables works out to around Rs.44,000 crores a year which can be reduced significantly by suitable investments in the food processing sector. She said that presently only 2-3% of fruits and vegetables are processed and thus there was a great opportunity in the food processing sector.

Commenting on the progress in the National Mission for Food Processing (NMFP), the Minister noted with satisfaction that in the present year, in the first six months, 50% of the grants given to the states is going to be utilised, which is a healthy trend.

Mrs. Badal also requested the representatives of the states/ UTs to give suggestions by which the losses in the agricultural commodities could be reduced. She also laid stress on using practical engineering solutions using simple techniques particularly at the harvesting stage and transportation stage so that farmers could get a better price for their produce and the wastage was minimised.

Siraj Hussain. Secretary, Ministry of Food Processing welcomed the representatives from Goa, Manipur, Odisha, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Karnataka etc.

The representatives of different States/ UTs also shared their experiences/ concerns/ suggestions with the Union Food Processing Minister. Lt. Gen. A. K. Singh, Governor, Andaman & Nicobar (A&N) Islands noted that 30% of India’s fish resources were in A& N Islands and they would collaborate with Andhra Pradesh for the fisheries sector. Smt. Badal advised them to also look at the coconut sector in processing activities.

Mr. Mahadev Naik, Minister for Industries, Goa, suggested that cold storage should be set up in villages for processing fish and meat. The Union Food Processing Minister Smt. Badal advised them to also look for upgradation of rice mills through the grants made available by the Ministry.

Mr. Krishna B.Gowda, Agriculture Minister, Karnataka, stressed on the need for backward integration of retail units with the Food Processing projects so that a direct connect is achieved between the consumers and the producers. He said that investments in organised retail would result in efficiencies in the food chain and better value for farmers. He also highlighted the need for de-regulation of agriculture markets. Citing the example of Karnataka, Mr. Gowda said that internet based auctioning of agricultural products as well as marketing de-regulation has brought good results. He requested that food processing sector should be included in the priority agricultural lending by the banks.

The Union Food Processing Minister Smt. Harsimrat Kaur Badal said that her Ministry was looking at a new scheme of Mega Food Parks where cluster based approach would be followed which gives flexibility to the prospective entrepreneur regarding the area and the number and nature of units to be set up in the food parks.